By Autumn Kath, CAPSW, Program Coordinator
In May, we held our first in-person Remembrance Ceremony since the pandemic started. A time to come together and share, to remember and support one another in our grief. We shared stories, painted rocks and flowerpots; then planted sunflower seeds in honor of those who have died. To some these simple activities may seem just that, simple. However, to the grieving they give space to be creative, to gather with others when we are in the depths of loneliness, and give hope for what is to come. It takes strength to talk about those we miss and we are stronger together.
Each attendee was given sunflower seeds to plant. They were encouraged to find a space where they could watch these seeds grow. Similar to healing after grief, seeds take time to grow. We water them; we clear the weeds that try to hinder growth. Finally, all that work pays off. We do not forget the effort we put in, we do not forget our sadness, but we do start to recognize the beauty of life. That with time and attention to ourselves we can heal, we can rebuild and grow.
I am often asked how we can do this work, work with grief, and work with pain and sadness. It is the comfort and growth we offer that is the reward. We see people living their lives fully. Enjoying the time they have with those they love. It is a constant reminder to do the same. To be present in every moment. Seek out the beauty of the sunflowers.
I think of those who have died while being served by Gilda’s Club often. I planted those same sunflower seeds in my garden. I watched them grow. They are a daily reminder of people’s stories; stories of chasing Bigfoot, repairing sewing machines, watching volleyball games, and creating fairy houses. Those stories are planted in my humble sunflower garden. I encourage those in the throes of grief to find or create a space: A safe space of beauty and growth. Find healing through creativity and surrounding yourself with those who nourish you. Tell the stories of those who can no longer tell them themselves.